5 ways to clean and protect your floors
If you sweep or vacuum diligently, cleaning a few times a year with a product designed for floors may suffice. However, you will want to take different measurements depending on the flooring material.
Water alone may be sufficient to treat spot stains. “Most flooring today is easy to clean,” says de Paz. “Stains don’t normally penetrate, so they can be removed with plain water.”
Before using a store-bought liquid floor cleaner, make sure it’s right for your floor type. Cleaner labels will usually specify this, but if you’re not sure how the cleaner will perform on your floor, try it on an inconspicuous area of the floor first, de Paz says. Put a few drops of cleaner on the floor, let sit for about an hour, and wipe up with a damp paper towel. After the stain dries, look for damage. Shine a flashlight on the spot and move it around different angles to see if the shine on the spot is different from the rest of the floor.
The cleaner you use will depend on the finish of the wood. If you are unsure what type of finish is on your hardwood floor, apply a few drops of water to an inconspicuous area. If white spots appear within 10 minutes, the finish is wax. If no white spot appears, it is polyurethane. Another way to test: scratch the surface (again, in a remote area) with a coin or other sharp object. If the finish doesn’t peel, it’s polyurethane.
Clean wood floors with a polyurethane finish using a solution of 1 cup of distilled white vinegar and 3 to 4 gallons of warm water. (Or use a water-based cleaner made specifically for urethane finishes, like Bona.) Damp mop the floor, don’t soak it. To do this, soak a terry cloth towel in the solution, wring the towel out of the excess solution, and cover a standard flat-head mop with the towel to clean the floor. Clean waxed finish floors with a solvent-based cleaner and liquid wax designed specifically for wood floors.
Regardless of the finish, never use products intended for vinyl or tile on wood floors, as they can dull the finish and make the floors slippery. Be careful when using a sponge mop; some have hard metal edges that can scratch floors. And avoid using a steam mop on wood; hot water can warp them. “If you’re not careful, they can do a lot of damage,” says Larry Ciufo, CR’s test engineer who evaluates steam mops.